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Peggi Lepage's Rebecca Dunham
photo: Frank Begin

Rebecca Dunham

September 7, 2021

The Great Malls of China

There are mega-malls all over China. They have become a looming staple of affluent neighbourhoods catering to the worldís favourite new consumers: wealthy Chinese teenagers. The malls here are gigantic and Iíve been lost in more than one. Filled with foreign brands and Chinese brands manufactured a few cities away for a fraction of the price, each store pumps out pop tunes to lure in the giggling gaggles of boys and girls wandering around the malls. The food courts are a new world of gastronomical exploration, often packing enough calories in just one bite to last a week. This may sound like the typical North American mall experience -- hanging out with friends, enjoying greasy meals, shopping, going to movies -- and it is, but imagine your own mall twice as big and luxurious and you're getting closer.

My favourite part of walking through the great malls of China is not just the workout I get from wandering around inside these mammoth structures, but looking at all the billboards and catalogues inside the store. After being in Beijing for three months and Shanghai for almost six I have the joy of finding pictures of my friends all over the malls. Seeing my friendsí successes splashed all over a cool store has, Iíll admit, made me lose my cool. Usually I giddily snap a ton of pictures and send them off to friends who have already left China. The models often have no idea that their picture would end up on a billboard - especially when the job is for a catalogue - and most models have left China before the campaigns come out.

The great malls of China also pose another form of entertainment: despite their futuristic interiors, the malls seem to have a weakness for 80ís-style mall runway show. Seldom do we still see the mall runway show in Canada (or do I not spend enough time in malls?) but they are a regular occurrence here in China. I participated in a few of these mall shows in Beijing and I have had my fair share here in Shanghai too. I actually like doing mall shows; your start time isnít too early in the morning, you finish before dinner time, the client gives you lunch money and lets you go buy your own lunch, and the hair and makeup is usually pretty light.

For one show I did recently in a luxury shopping mall here in Shanghai, I showed up feeling pretty groggy. I had to wait in the sun for the booker to bring me to the backstage, which proved to be rather difficult. It took her a half and hour to find me! We were doing a show for a cool Chinese brand. The clothes were really fashionable and I knew a couple of the models in the show. Our rehearsal was short and the choreography was easy. The hair and makeup room was pretty tiny so only two girls could get ready at a time. The rest of us were told to go get lunch and be back in an hour. A group of us went looking for the food court, checking all the billboards along the way. As we wandered down an escalator there was a large billboard with two girls holding hands and walking down a Chinese street at night. I glanced at it thinking about how I want a billboard. Then I looked again, Oh my gosh! I have a billboard and Iím staring at myself in the face! I started to freak out on the escalator. The other models were so confused and I kept saying, "Thatís me and my best friend! We did that shoot in Beijing together!!!" They didnít seem to register. As we reached the bottom of the escalator I went back up so I could go down again and snap a picture.

I had no idea that the images from that job would appear on a billboard, so finding myself blown up on the wall of mall was as shocking as it was exciting. The surprise made my day. One of my modelling dreams came true and thanks to my mall show I actually got to experience it in the best way possible.

Rebecca


Rebecca is a Peggi Lepage model, currently in Shanghai.

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